Family refuses to leave flooded home

Resilience and grace under fire.

The Singapore Red Cross (SRC) advance team in flood-hit Myanmar saw these at first-hand from the victims.

The three-man team went to affected communities in the Nyuang Tone township in the Ayeryarwaddy region and the Tike Kyi township, about 70km from Yangon.

The floods have already claimed over a hundred lives and affected more than a million people.

One team member, Mr July De Leon, 37, said that what he saw moved him deeply.

Working together with their Myanmar counterparts, the team went to rescue a family from their home near the Tike Kyi township.

But the family refused to leave their kampung house despite the waters reaching the second level of their home .

Said Mr De Leon: "We arrived at their house at around 2pm on a sampan and they offered us food that they had just cooked.

"They were so hospitable despite the situation they were in. I was just speechless."

The family did not want to leave because they still had hope that the floods would subside.

"Boats will continue to patrol the area in case anything happens, but we wanted them to evacuate in case anything happened while no one was patrolling," said Mr De Leon.

"In the end, we respected their decision to stay."

Led by team leader Charis Chan, 26, the SRC advance team, which also includes Ms Seet Shu Yi, 24, is, in terms of average age, the youngest team ever sent by SRC.


All three are full-time Red Cross staffers who are trained in basic first aid and national disaster response.

Tasked with assessing the extent of the situation to determine how much aid would be required, the team was sent on a three-day mission starting on Aug 6.

The team was the first international team to arrive from the Red Cross and had to face the full challenge of early rescue efforts.

Said Ms Chan: "Emergency rescue operations and evacuations were still ongoing, so the situation was still very chaotic.

"We couldn't get a fixed number of the people affected, so we couldn't estimate what the best course of action was.

"One of the camps we went to at the Tike Kyi Township in the Yangon region was supposed to hold 200 people. Instead, we arrived to 600 villagers who had lost their homes."

The floods reached heights of up to 10m and Ms Seet remembers seeing houses with only their rooftops above the water.

"It was an eye-opening experience going there and helping the people who were affected," she said. "Despite everything that has happened, they somehow manage to smile and remain happy."

The SRC hopes to send more teams to Myanmar to help with the relief efforts and meet the rising demand for medical aid.

The Government has pledged US$100,000 (S$141,005) to kick-start SRC's public appeal for funds.

The public can contribute via walk-in cash donations or by cheque.

Inquiries can be directed to SRC at 6664 0500 or

This article was first published on August 13, 2015.
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